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Unit testing MVC controllers / Mocking UrlHelper

· 3 min read

I have put a name to my pain...

And it is unit testing ASP.Net MVC controllers.

Well perhaps that's unfair. I have no problem unit testing MVC controllers.... until it comes to making use of the "innards" of MVC. Let me be more specific. This week I had a controller action that I needed to test. It looked a little like this:

Looks fine right? It's an action that takes a simple object as an argument. That's ok. It returns a JsonResult. No worries. The JsonResult consists of an anonymous class. De nada. The anonymous class has one property that is driven by the controllers UrlHelper. Yeah that shouldn't be an issue... Hold your horses sunshine - you're going nowhere!

Getting disillusioned

Yup, the minute you start pumping in asserts around that UrlHelper driven property you're going to be mighty disappointed. What, you didn't expect the result to be null? Damn shame.

Despite articles on MSDN about how the intention is for MVC to be deliberately testable the sad fact of the matter is that there is a yawning hole around the testing support for controllers in ASP.Net MVC. Whenever you try to test something that makes use of controller "gubbins" you have serious problems. And unfortunately I didn't find anyone out there who could offer the whole solution.

After what I can best describe as a day of pain I found a way to scratch my particular itch. I found a way to write unit tests for controllers that made use of UrlHelper. As a bonus I managed to include the unit testing of Routes and Areas (well kind of) too.

MvcMockControllers updated

This solution is heavily based on the work of Scott Hanselman who wrote and blogged about MvcMockHelpers back in 2008. Essentially I've taken this and tweaked it so I could achieve my ends. My version of MvcMockHelpers looks a little like this:

What I want to test

I want to be able to unit test the controller Edit method I mentioned earlier. This method calls the Action method on the controllers Url member (which is, in turn, a UrlHelper) to generate a URL for passing pack to the client. The URL generated should fit with the routing mechanism I have set up. In this case the route we expect a URL for was mapped by the following area registration:

Enough of the waffle - show me a unit test

Now to the meat; here's a unit test which demonstrates how this is used:

Let's go through this unit test and breakdown what's happening:

  1. Arrange
  2. Act
  3. Assert

The most interesting thing you'll note is the controller's UrlHelper is now generating a URL as we might have hoped. The URL is generated making use of our routing, yay! Finally we're also managing to unit test a route registered by our area.